Bellying up for charity

by Lindsay Nelson

The rites of spring are upon us. We’ve set our clocks ahead and groaned as we rose in the dark Monday morning, only to rejoice in the evening as the sun stays over Smelter Mountain long enough for us to drink a beer on the porch after work. Crocuses (or croci, not to be confused with Croce) bloom despite the constant threat of snow and dog trampling. And St. Patrick’s Day approaches, the lone holiday of March and so beloved for its near-universal focus on drinking, dancing and boasting of your bog-water origins. As is nearly always the case, there is to be no shortage of venues for expressing your fervent desire to be Irish and therefore worthy of your whiskey, or to embarrass yourself and your former countrymen by chugging dyed-green Budweiser while wearing a wee plastic bowler.

Some traditions of March are worthy of praise, yet. All in one weekend we welcome the return of Chocolate Fantasia and the St. Baldrick’s Day fund-raiser on Friday and the Hops and Hopes event on Saturday.

If there’s one thing we Durangoans are good at, it’s drinking beer to raise money for good causes. That’s pretty much what Hops & Hopes is about; it’s a fund-raiser for the Durango Early Learning Center during which attendees pay to enter, then “taste” beers from local breweries, eat, fool around with Celtic music, buy stuff at auction and generally have a dandy old time with a live DJ, because dead ones just aren’t as much fun. It’s happening at the Diamond Circle Theatre from 6 to 10 p.m., and I would bet the cost of a ticket that few heads will be without green plastic hats. Is there any better way to support young children’s education than by drinking all evening? I think not.

For the 21st time, local teams of individuals and businesses have worked feverishly for weeks to create a masterpiece of chocolate, only to watch them fall to pieces in minutes as first ravenous media types and judges take their lumps, then the hungry hordes descend, and it’s all over. But for a brief moment in time, it is a truly beautiful sight. All that chocolate and those little wooden tongue-depressor things to scoop and scrape at it with. Mmmm. So what is the point of this Chocolate Fantasia? It’s one of the most original and nifty fund-raising ideas that’s sprung from this town. The event raises money for the Volunteers of America Southwest Safehouse and Durango Community Shelter. It happens Friday at the Fort Lewis College Ballroom. This year’s theme is “Chocolate Goes Hollywood.” The possibilities are endless ... a milk chocolate bust of Marilyn Monroe? An erupting volcano of molten fudge modeled after the Hollywood hills? A white chocolate-covered banana on a completely anatomically correct replica of Tommy Lee? Go, eat, vote and be merry. Chocolate is good for you.

And once more this year, dozens of guys and a few brave gals will take up the barber shears to raise money and support kids with cancer at the St. Baldrick’s event, held this year at Scoot ‘n’ Blues on Friday evening. The general premise of this event, thought up by a few guys over beers back in 1999, is for willing participants to promise to shave their heads if friends, family and strangers pledge enough money for children’s cancer research. It takes the barroom boast to a new level of worthiness. And it’s effective. The national St. Baldrick’s Foundation, made up of all the people across the country who put together events, has raised nearly $10 million for cancer research. Here in Durango, the event begins at 5 p.m. with Ralph Dinosaur, then, at 7 p.m. the money is ponied up and out come the clippers.

If you’ve any money left after all this drinking for charity, pony up for good old KDUR-FM, your free-form college and community radio station, holding its spring membership/fund drive starting Monday. Call them up, give them money, get cool stuff and stop feeling guilty about loving the Funk Explosion. It’s OK.

In between all your open-hearted generosity, you may need some regular entertainment. Tonight, March 15, there’s two flavors on offer. First is Vince Herman (of Leftover Salmon fame) & The Wayword Sons (a pretty famous Durango band with Benny Galloway and other guys you’ve probably been drunk with) at the Diamond Circle Theatre. For a night of bluegrass jams and the occasional sweet aromatherapy break, it can’t be beat.

If you know what acid jazz is and you think it would go good mixed with hip hop, Yo Flaco is for you. Thanks to the glory of MySpace, you can hear a sample of their sound and read all about their music. What do they sound like? “The Roots meets Tower of Power while hangin with Ozo and DMB,” or so they like to say. Catch Yo Flaco at the Summit tonight.

If you really want to get all Americ-Irish with it on Saturday, you can catch the big St. Patty’s Day show at the Summit with Aftergrass. At the bar, there will be drink specials, green Jell-O shots and such. Come early for the dub reggae and trance DJ starting at 7. Aftergrass will hit the stage around 9:30. Aftergrass actually doesn’t have a noticeable bluegrass element to its sound despite a name that strongly infers a sort of post-bluegrass, neo-newgrass sort of sound. Aftergrass is Colorado grown, and so of course some of the members did the whole mountain music thing together at one time. But now they’re pretty well rock ‘n’ roll, in a psychedelic, jammy sort of fashion.

And now, a limerick:

There once was a man from Nantucket,





Happy St. Patrick’s Day, with apologies to all Irish folk. •



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